Family gulet cruising in Turkey

There are trails of small footprints leading to the front of the boat. Follow them until you come across the large wet patch on the deck. Be quick; the Turkish sun is hot, and those footprints will dry out in a matter of minutes. The children who made them, on the other hand, won’t.

“I can tell you now, all the kids had an amazing time,” says Karyn Darley-Waddilove. She took her partner and nine-year-old daughter on a Turkish gulet cruise. There were three other families on the cruise and Karyn struggled to keep her daughter on board. “Every day she was in the water. There were diving competitions off the boat,” she says.

Be warned, kids will spend this entire holiday in the sea – as Karen found out. It’s a common phenomenon. “People who do this trips say that the kids just live in the water, from the moment the sun comes up to when it goes down,” Antony Barton, the family holiday expert at our small group adventure specialist Explore, confirms.
Watching your kids’ confidence grow, both in the group and with the water, is what makes these trips so special for families. “She was the youngest child on board and the oldest was 18, but everyone got on really well. None of the kids felt like they were being left out,” Karyn says.
Diving competitions aside, there’s something incredibly relaxing about cruising along the Turquoise Coast on a Turkish gulet. The boat is small enough that you’ll have personal service from the crew and also get to know everyone really well. It has been owned by a local Turkish family for decades, and you might meet the families of the crew en route. “My partner really became friends with the crew,” Karyn says. “There were a few points where he was fishing with them off the boat.”
The handsome, hand-built Turkish gulet isn’t the only ‘ship’ on your holiday – there’s also friendship and companionship, and these might last long after your cruising adventure ends.

What does a family Turkish gulet cruise entail?

Family cruises on Turkish gulets run with three or four other families on board, and a friendly local crew. From the moment you step on board, the boat is your home. Just slip your shoes in the basket and get a drink in your hand, and you’ll be ready to go. There is a selection of double and twin cabins on board, which are comfortable but snug. You’ll spend most of your time out and about on deck. The average age for children on these trips is generally 13, but kids aged eight and over are welcome on board, so long as they can swim. Parents of an only child and solo parents alike will find a sociable trip like this more than ideal, and there’s no extra charge for solo occupancy if your family doesn’t fit into two twin rooms.

Turkey’s Turquoise Coast is a popular holiday spot, but you’ll find that by anchoring in quiet bays, and having a flexible itinerary, your captain will avoid most of the crowds, even in high summer. You’ll explore at a very relaxed pace, suited to the heat. Highlights in the area include Iztuzu Beach – left undeveloped so it can be a protected nesting site for loggerhead turtles – and the Bay of Kekova. Not only does the bay have glassy, crystal-clear water, but you can see Atlantis-like ruins partially submerged along the shore. These are all that remains of the ancient Lycian city of Dolciste, after it was destroyed by an earthquake. There are snorkels on board, but bring your own if you have them, and your kids are particularly keen on underwater exploration.
Gulets are traditional boats, handsomely built out of teak and pine. They’re fitted with modern motor engines which charge a generator as they run, so there are electrical outlets on board. At night when you’re at anchor, the crew will turn off the generator. This saves electricity and is lovely and peaceful, but if you’re not used to the heat of the summer nights you will enjoy sleeping on deck. “I’m not going to sugar-coat – it’s an adjustment for the first night. Everyone’s meeting each other for the first time, but you’ve got your spot and no one even thinks about it – the deck’s big enough,” Karyn explains. Kids, no doubt, will think this is all brilliant.
There’s a chef on board preparing fresh breakfasts, lunches and dinners. They’ll use local ingredients topped up throughout the trip from small shops along the way. Expect an abundance of fresh bread and plenty of simple dishes to satisfy even fussy eaters. There’s a fresh spread at breakfast – tuck in after a morning swim. Lunch is served when you’re underway to your afternoon spot. After dinner, adults can stay up chatting under the stars, whilst kids drift off to sleep.
The boat does short passages and only anchors in sheltered places to keep seasickness at a minimum. You’ll spend most of your time on deck, which can also help stave off a queasy stomach.

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Best time to go on a family Turkish gulet cruise

This trip runs all the way through high summer, in July and August – perfect for your school summer holiday. This is when Turkey’s coast is at its hottest and temperatures might sit in the thirties all week during the day. Being underway on the boat does help with the heat, as you’ll get a cooling breeze. At night, most people will sleep on deck to stay cool, as with no generator running you might find the cabins too hot. In high summer a strong breeze called the meltem can build up, bringing more refreshing temperatures. If the weather is bad, the itinerary may change.
Written by Eloise Barker
Photo credits: [Page banner: Explore] [All images: Explore]
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